Sunday, August 24, 2014

We Summered Well

Summer has officially come to an end and school has begun for 2 of my girls.  When people ask how our summer was I happily reply that it was exactly what we hoped for: a successful heart surgery, time with friends and family and beautiful weather.

I decided to list our stats (statistics) from this summer and I think it is an exhaustive and impressive list.
  • The biggies, as I like to call LBean and EBean, went to an indoor water park in the Wisconsin Dells, a Burlington Bees baseball game, 1 family wedding, the American Girl Store in St. Louis and the pool
  •  One eye appointment (me)
  • 3 pediatrician appointments (all at the same time!)
  • 3 out patient echocardiagrams for ChinaBean
  • 4 visits to the cardiologist’s office
  • One heart catheterization
  • One heart surgery
  • Weekly art lessons for the biggies
  • Weekly summer reading program
  • 2 trips to WalMart 
  • 4 + trips to Target
  • 2 trips to Hobby Lobby
  • 2 trips to the spa (maybe to reverse the affects of going to WalMart?)
  • 4 haircuts (not on the same person!)
  • 4 weeks at Jamie’s parents’ house
  • 3 weeks at my parents’ house
  • 1 ride on a horse
  • 1 visit to the piggies
  • 1 family picture session (success!)
  • A round of vaccinations for 4 out of 5 of us
  • 1 birthday party
  • 6 days of VBS (vacation Bible School) between 2 churches
  • Approximately 60 miles run outside in the fresh air
  • Approximately 13 one-way trips in 7 weeks between Peoria and Carthage
  • Two 12+ hour flights (four for Jamie)
  • And, drum-roll…watched Frozen approximately 30 times…we’re ready to “Let it Go”

Summer ended and school started.  

LBean is in Year 4 (third grade for our friends in the US).  She got the teacher that she wanted and has a few good friends in the class.  Next month she will be going on a three-day school trip without mom & dad.

Outside the gate to the girls' school.
EBean is joining her big sister at Dulwich College this year as a Year 1 student (kindergarten).  She is very excited that her school will be studying super heroes for the first part of the term.

EBean with her teacher and classroom assistant.

ChinaBean is spending time with mom until she starts at her little preschool in September.

Celebrating ChinaBean's 3rd Birthday

Friday, August 8, 2014

Three years already?! Our Chinavesary

Last month marked our 3 year Chinaversay, marking the day we landed in China.  The time has gone quickly, or at least that is how it has felt recently.  Maybe I’ve forgotten a bit of the tough parts from the first 6 months of living overseas!
The day we moved to China...LBean was 5, EBean was
2 1/2, Jamie was, well he was younger too!
We’ve been in the US for nearly 7 weeks this summer while ChinaBean had her latest heart surgery.  One of the most common questions we’ve gotten is, “So when are you moving back?” or “How much longer do you have over there?”  Hmmm, that is a really great question.  Being flexible seems to be paramount in the life of an expat.  If you weren’t flexible before, living overseas will force you to become flexible.  So, our answer must remain flexible.  

We *think* we’ll be moving back to the US next summer.  But, until our feet hit the ground on US soil, I can’t be for certain.  Some companies with overseas employees have specific lengths of contracts, but Jamie’s company does not.  In fact, we were told to expect 18-24 months in China and here we are at almost 37 months!

As we prepare to fly back to China next week for possibly our last (?) year, I’m feeling the full range of emotions.  Sadness and excitement all wrapped together, but also tempered with a realistic dose of until “they” tell us to pack our bags, it’s best to just enjoy it.  Don’t borrow tomorrow’s troubles, right?!

I interviewed Jamie and the girls about their feelings about living in China as we reflected on our three years abroad.  ChinaBean didn't participate in my interview.  Maybe next year.

Favorite thing about China…LBean and Ebean weren’t sure, but Jamie said the food and he quickly followed up with the warm, friendly smiles from the people.  For me, it is the sense of adventure around every corner.  If I want to go find an adventure, I don’t have to go far.

Least favorite thing about China…LBean said she does not like being away from family and for EBean, it was climbing the Great Wall all the way (“seriously”, she said).  Jamie said it was the pollution.  That has certainly become my least favorite part, especially this past year.
Hiking the Great Wall for the second time.
Favorite Food…LBean loves the sweet & sour pork, EBean likes the rice and Jamie loves the spicy tofu and the Chinese Muslim food (me too!).

In Old Town, Fall 2011
Favorite/least favorite things about the apartment….LBean & EBean didn’t have an answer, Jamie likes the view, but misses having a garden.  I love being so close to the vegetable market, Starbucks, restaurants, the subway, my favorite nail/massage place, etc.  I love being able to walk or ride my bike to my favorite spots.

Favorite thing about Suzhou…LBean loves the Chinese opera (and I do mean loves it)!  EBean had no comment and Jamie said he likes the gardens and greenery.  I love the juxtaposition of old, specifically Old Town, with the new (like the area around our apartment).

Things we miss about America…LBean misses family (me too), EBean misses water slides (hmmm, ok?) and Jamie misses not being able to drive himself around.  Besides Target, I miss being around the familiar…familiar language, places and people.  It is (very) mentally taxing trying to navigate a world where you don’t speak the language very well.

Will there be a 4 year Chinaversary?!  Your guess is as good as mine.